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  • Emergency Message Notification and Collaboration - A Crucial Part of a Complete Business Continuity Plan

    Does your company's business continuity or emergency response plan include a system for emergency notification and collaboration? Every company needs a BCP or Business Continuity Plan most companies have them but a critical piece is usually missing. Does your company have an emergency management tool that would enable your company to instantly pull key members of your executive staff or emergency first responders in to an emergency conference call? Fast assessment and constant communications are the keys to limiting exposure, improving response and speeding communications.

    What happens in an emergency? Usually a call occurs notifying someone of the situation. Depending on the situation help is called shortly after. Calls are made subsequently to reach others for help or consultation. Assessments are made and additional help maybe dispatched. In a large emergency many calls need to be made. Time is crucial for everyone involved and fast reliable communications is needed. How fast can an assessment be made and a plan of action rolled out? When disaster strikes every second counts.

    How does your company get in touch with its first responders during an emergency? Whose responsibility is it to call first responders? Does this person carry a list? How does management stay in constant communications with first responders? During an emergency decisions are made on the fly who made them can how will you know who said what?

    After an emergency has been assessed how does your company notify workers of the situation? How can workers report their status to the company? Are your workers OK? Can they report back to work? How do you contact your workers?

    If you are having trouble answering some of these questions you are not alone. Telcom & Data has partnered with Cooper Wheelock and XOP Networks and implemented emergency notification systems for some of the largest companies as well as government and military installations. We can help your company develop a custom solution to help limit loss in an emergency. If you would like to learn more about our products and services feel free to call us at 800-335-0229.

  • IP Technology and “Going Green” in the Office

    How IP technology can help your office reduce energy consumption and improve profitability has just gotten simpler.

    As many companies struggle to cut costs and look for inexpensive alternative energy options, advances in IP technology are making the decision to "go green" easier.

    Integrated voice and data PRI and T1 circuits, coupled with increased competition, are driving the cost of data and high speed Internet access down. Lower costs are enabling countless companies to take advantage of a host of IP technologies and solutions that can help reduce emissions and overhead.

    After 9/11, there was a spike in video conferencing system sales as travel concerns rose among companies and their employees. Expensive ISDN circuits were the primary component in many of these existing systems. Since then, companies like Polycom have improved IP-based options. As the cost of both video conferencing and high speed Internet access continue to fall, video conferencing systems are being used more extensively than ever.

    VoIP telephony is another prime example of how firms can reduce energy consumption. Telecommuting is fast becoming one of the most desired and cost-effective employee perks. Using an IP phone has a wide range of benefits, from reducing energy consumption and stress, to providing more family time for workers. There is a significant return on investment associated with VoIP telephony.

    VoIP technology allows you to harness the benefits of your company's phone system remotely. Dialing from your office's phone lines, transferring calls, checking voicemail, along with intercom and conference calling are all typical system features needed to work successfully from home.

    VoIP enabled phone systems offer the most flexibility. Pure IP-based phone sets provide the functionality of an office in a home setting that can be used for customer service, sales support, or even day-to-day administration. A SoftPhone is essentially software that is loaded onto laptops for a mobile IP phone solution. Add a wireless card and be connected to your office from any Starbucks or other wireless hotspot. A USB headset allows you access to the office and intercom functions, permits paging and dialing out, and the transfer and receipt of calls all while sipping a Grande Latte. Do you have a "road warrior" in your office? Check out Avaya's affordable IP Office System that delivers powerful system features for configurations ranging from 2 phones to 360 phones.

    VoIP can be added easily and affordably to an existing phone system. There are two unique solutions. The first, (MCK), allows connectivity of proprietary digital sets. The second, (Multitech), enables you to connect any analog phone from a home or remote office back to the system through any available analog station port.

    Teleconferencing is another technology that reduces the need to travel. From monthly board meetings to remote employee training sessions, conference calling systems allow meetings to be held in a "virtual" setting. Costs associated with this option, though much cheaper than face-to-face meetings, can still prove expensive. An in-house system can reduce costs to as little as $0.02 per minute. Many systems include web conferencing choices that utilize additional features and promote more extensive user interaction.

    The bottom line is that IP technology is available to help reduce carbon emissions and travel costs. For more information on how your company can take advantage of IP technology, contact Telcom & Data at 800-335-0229.

    From the desk of

    Ricardo Trinidad

  • Cook County IL Proposed Telephone Tax Could Cost Businesses and Consumers BIG $$$

    The Cook County Board of Commissioners has proposed a new tax of $48 per phone per line year, could increase phone rates much as 131%! The proposed tax would apply to every phone line – even to every fax line, cell phone and DSL or Broad band line. The new proposed tax would also increase every year at the rate of inflation. This means that in five years, the total tax would be more than $250 per phone! If passed, this tax would hit the pocketbooks of all consumers and businesses in Cook County IL.

    If this tax passes business circuits including integrated voice and data T1and PRI circuits could become more attractive then ever. A T1 or PRI can deliver as many as 24 channels (lines) on a single circuit. The tax would be $ 4.00. The cost for the typical Chicago area business with 5 lines would go up as much as $ 1,260.00

    Creating a new phone tax – on top of the many federal, state and local taxes that consumers already pay for each phone line – is not the answer.

    For more information on the tax go to http://www.nophonetax.org/about.php

  • VoIP Technology Keeps Business Going During Snow Storm

    VoIP Technology Keeps Business Going During Snow Storm
    Another record snow storm freezes over upstate New York and New England .. Businesses, schools, Airports and government offices have closed because of icy impassable roads.

    The economic effects for businesses can be tremendous. A disaster recovery plan can keep businesses operating even in the event of widespread power outages, transportation strikes, or natural disasters.

    VoIP and Failsafe routing are two technologies that help your business avoid costly closings. Fail safe routing is having a plan to which in the event of a catastrophe phone calls can be re-routed. It could be as sophisticated as having a full disaster recovery plan in which you might have a back up VOIP phone system in waiting to allow your office to become virtual or as simple as having calls re-routed to a cell phone. Fail safe routing can protect your business when a cable has been cut or phones lines have been frozen over and broken and your phone service with it. To talk to someone about how failsafe routing can protect your business click here.

    Having a VOIP phone system could enable a company to work virtually. Workers could work from home or other locations with VoIP enabled phones or PCs with softphones. Avaya IP Office is a VOIP phone system that can be set up and installed as a virtual PBX. It offers both VoIP phone sets and softphones. As long as phone service is still working, workers don't have to leave home to answer phones.

    How to protect your business

    Having a fail safe routing plan is a must for all businesses. You don't have to operate on a fault line or on the coast to have a plan in place.

    A fail safe plan should contain a few things:

    Escalation phone number list. This list should contain the phone numbers of both your phone company and PBX vendor. It should have the names and numbers of everyone up the ladder. The higher you can get it the better. You are probably going to receive faster resolution to your problem if you have the VP of Services’ number then just the customer service number.

    Have a designated number to which you can receive calls in case of phone service interruption. You should talk with your carrier ahead of time so they have the number as well. Some carriers like Globalcom in Chicago offer this as part of their service. When they detect an outage they automatically send calls to another number. Do not assume a carrier will offer this to you in the event of an outage. On recent service call we received from a new customer who had been completely with out phone service for the day we asked the carrier why they had not offered fail safe routing to the customer , who had two other locations, they said ” they never asked us to”.
    Make sure the plan is in the hands of a few key people. When problems occur it’s always at an inconvenient time. Make sure everyone knows the drill.
    Other things to consider is having a full disaster recovery plan. PD Management recently added a disaster recovery plan which included a fully loaded phone system that could be dropped shipped and set up in days notice. When asking Joani Baskins the PBX manager about it she said ” it is essential to our business operations to keep phone service up in the event of a hurricane”. PD Management has locations in Texas and Louisiana.

    Telcom & Data is a nationwide business telecommunications equipment and service provider based in Chicago. In addition to phone system service, Telcom & Data sells Plantronics Bluetooth Headsets and Avaya Telephone Systems for small, medium, and large businesses. If you would like more information on fail safe routing call 800-335-0229 or visit us on line at www.telcom-data.com

  • Implementing Telecommuting At the Work Place

    Implementing a telecommuting policy is easier then most businesses realize.

    As soon as an owner hears VoIP they are ready to say it's too expensive but the fact is the cost of VoIP technology is going down. Typically the cost of a VoIP enabled phone system is only 30% higher then traditional phone systems. The per station cost of a VoIP phone system ca range from $ 750.00 per station to $ 1,500.00 per station. To implement a totally IP based phone system there can be additional costs including a network assessment where the integrity of LAN needs to be checked for quality of service (QOS). LANs , routers, switches and even data cabling need to be checked to see if it can handle VoIP.

    Other ways to skin a cat. Besides implementing a totally IP solution where every phone has a static IP address there are also Hybrid IP phone systems. Hybrid phone systems can take advantage of both digital and IP technologies. Phones systems like Avaya IP Office and the Toshiba CTX systems can be configured for IP and digital telephones. Using both digital and IP technology can save your company thousands and you won't need a complete LAN over haul. Another advantage is hybrid systems can use existing CAT 3 or better phone cabling. The front end of the systems are IP enabled and connectivity to remote offices or branch offices can be done VoIP. So you don't have to have an IP phone on everyone's desk. At home workers use IP phones to connect back to the office. You end up with a remote worker with the same phone set features as any one with in the office. The hybrid system is redundant. You still have two networks both phone and data that work independent of each other. IP tech types might not dig this but who wants to reboot their phone system?

    If you are on a shoe string budget and need VoIP this might interest you. You can add VoIP extension to any phone system! Multitech a manufacturer of modems also provides VoIP gateways that can connect voip extensions to your existing phone system through either spare analog or spare trunk ports. Of course with any VoIP solution, telecommuters will still need high speed internet access from home. But connectivity is easy and cheap. The cost for a single telecommuter or remote office is only a few hundred dollars. To find out more about implementing telecommuting call Ricardo Trinidad at 800-335-0229.

  • Telecommuting, the Ideal Employee Benefit

    VOIP or Voice Over Internet Protocol works. We are well beyond the wait and see of the technology and if your company is not embracing it, another company will be stealing your best employees with it. Offering VoIP to employees makes sense now more then ever. With commute times ever increasing, the sky rocketing cost of gas, and the environment, implementing a telecommuting company policy makes good business sense. The best reason to offer telecommuting is to attract and retain talent. Ask any employee what's important to them and the answer will be family. Telecommuting allows employees to spend more time with the family. Spending more family time provides employees with a better and less stressed life style. A happy employee is going to stay longer and be more productive. Offering telecommuting even on a part time basis can have a huge impact.

    Who is using telecommuting now?
    Check out www.workingmother.com for a list of the best companies to work for. All of the companies on the list offer telecommuting. The corporate consulting giant Accenture scored big with a recent ABC documentary about it's telecommuting policy. The ABC report focused on three companies including IBM, Accenture and a smaller company called Crayon. According to the report 42% of IBM employees telecommute saving the company over 100 million dollars annually on real estate. 92% of Accenture employees, with a work force of over 24,000, utilize telecommuting. Implementing telecommuting is easy and inexpensive. You don't have to fork over an arm and a leg to offer it. The price of VoIP phone systems have really come down and, with other features such as built in conference bridges, new IP based phone systems can pay for themselves with a short ROI. Other devices enable you to add VoIP to any existing phone system for an investment only a few hundred dollars. For more information on how your company can implement telecommuting check out http://www.telcom-data.com/voip-systems.aspx

    From the desk of Ricardo Trinidad
    1-800-335-0229

  • How To WOW Your Customers

    It is a banner time to reach out to telcommunications technology to help improve your business. The technology currently available used to be only available to Fortune 500 companies. Technology has improved and is affordable to any size company and able to help you create better customer relationships, improve productivity, lower costs and increase sales. In Jeffery Gitomer's excellent book "Customer Satisfaction is Worthless" (Bard Press), Mr. Gitomer explains in a powerful and fun approach how to make customers love you, keep them coming back and tell everyone they know about you. He calls it the WOW factor. In other words does your customer say WOW when thinking about or describing your company? As in so many businesses, everything starts with the first impression and in most cases that first impression is in the form of a phone call. There is much to be said about that first call and how it was answered. We have defined several areas to help improve upon that ever so important first impression. Everything begins with the first impression:

    How was the customer’s initial call handled?
    How many rings did it take for the call to be answered?
    Was the caller greeted in a friendly and enthusiastic manner?
    Are you able to listen to calls to ensure proper handling?
    How many calls are you receiving?
    How long are customers sitting on hold?
    How many callers hang up after holding too long?
    What are people listening to while hold?
    When holding, did your customer receive information to help them make informed decisions about your company’s products and services or a radio commercial about your competitors company?
    When the call came in, did you know it was your best customer or just another call?
    When the call was transferred, did the customer end up in voice mail or did they speak to a live person?
    Are you able to hold meetings for monitoring and reviewing customer calls?
    Knowing the answers to these questions can make the difference between being memorable and being forgettable. It all begins with the first impression. If you don't know the answer to these questions, it’s time to talk to Telcom & Data about stepping up your game. Enhancing the complete customer service experience is paramount to staying in business. There are 3 types of customers - customers that are merely satisfied, customers who are dissatisfied, and customers who are WOWED. To learn more about giving your customers the WOW experience, contact Telcom & Data today at 800-335-0229 to receive a free consultation with an ROI analysis. Ask for our WOW solution!

    From the desk of Ricardo Trinidad
    President
    Telcom & Data Inc.

  • The Problem with Headsets for VoIP Phones in Call Center Environments

    Years ago all phones needed an amplifier to make a headset work because phones were not wired for headsets. So everyone who needed a headset got an amplifier and the audio quality was excellent. Newer phones, most notably VoIP phones, were then designed with a jack for a headset that was wired to allow users to plug one in with a cable instead of an amp and save money! These phones have the amp built in so why buy one, right? The reality is that although those phones do have rudimentary amplifiers built in, they just provide the rewiring necessary to make a headset work and add little value beyond that. If you are using a direct connect cable with your headset on a VoIP phone you know what I mean. If you are running a Contact Center using direct connect cables you really know what I’m talking about. In the Contact Center the deficits of the built in amp are magnified over all the agents and the cost of this money-saving solution becomes very apparent.

    Issue number one is volume levels; the “amplification” provided by the amp. You don’t have very much control over that with a cable. You can turn up the volume on the phone but sometimes that’s not enough. Turning up the phone volume also turns up any hiss that is on the line along with the call volume. What if the person on the other end says you sound too low to them? No solution for that with a cable. What about a 3 way call where one caller’s volume is low and the other high? What can you do about that if you only have a volume button on the phone? What about acoustic shock? That’s a very loud noise that comes unexpectedly. It can happen over the phone. Fax machines, white noise, audio feedback etc. can all create sound spikes that hurt your ears. What does a phone amp and a direct connect cable do to protect people from this painful risk? Nothing. What about echo? That can happen on a VoIP system where the voice traffic is running over the data lines. VoIP phone HAND-sets are designed to reduce echo. No help here if you use a headset with a cable.

    The fact is that these are very real issues and they can all be solved with an Audio Processor. Solving problems is great and in itself justification for the added expense of an Audio Processor but can we add other benefits as well? What if the Audio Processor automatically reduced the transmit volume (agent’s voice level) when the agent was not speaking thus complementing the noise canceling mike making it even more effective. The M22 does that. Can we do anything to actually increase call clarity and make it even better than the best handset conversation? We can! The Audio Processor moves the tonal range of the conversation up an octave. That’s like turning up the treble a little. Why? Because the human ear perceives sound in this range more clearly than it does in the mid or lower tonal range and that improves intelligibility. The person using an Audio Processor will understand the caller better and that can save time and reduce errors! Does it sound tinny? At first maybe. After 5 minutes, no.

    What is the big problem with the Audio Processor? It costs more than a cable. “Holy Acoustic Shock, Batman! You mean these benefits come at a price? What about the budget??!!” What about the budget? This is a very real problem too. All businesses encounter it whenever they want to spend more than a few dollars. Luckily most businesses are in the business of making money so anything that either makes them more or saves them some has a pretty good chance of being approved if the business case is strong. In fact the stronger the business case the faster the project will be funded because the organization will recognize that every minute of delay will result in lost revenue or unnecessary cost. (Businesses are so logical.) So the problem becomes making the business case for the Audio Processor so that those in charge of the purse strings clearly understand the cost of not having them. Below are some ideas for making a strong case. Due to the benefits described above Audio Processors save money by: Improving productivity by reducing the length of the call. If the agent or the customer don’t have to ask each other to repeat what they said, the call will be shorter. How many seconds shorter? 5, 10, 20 seconds shorter? Multiply that by the number of calls per day then by the number of agents = hours saved per day/week/month/year = surprisingly high $$$. Shorter average call lengths mean each agent can handle one or two more calls per day multiplied by the number of agents and maybe you don’t need that additional headcount… Reducing data input errors due to poor call clarity.

    What is the cost of an error? That depends on the business and on the error of course. If you track error rates and have an average cost this one is easy. If not, a little effort should result in a justifiable average like $25 per error. Just one error saved per agent per month can justify the investment in Audio Processors. Eliminating any potential medical costs associated with hearing damage caused by acoustic shock. It can’t happen with an Audio Processor which reduces loud noises to safe levels in 6 milliseconds. Reducing turnover. Let’s face it, if you were on the phone all day and the audio experience was less than completely comfortable and there was nothing you could do to improve it and you were shocked by loud noises occasionally and your boss was complaining about your error rate, you might look for a new job too. Audio Processors make money by: Saving it! See above. Improving the customer experience because they can hear and be heard with no effort. If the audio experience is unpleasant due to low volume or loud background noise, customers will be dissatisfied with the experience and the company. Reducing turnover, thus providing an experienced agent who is more able to maximize the revenue potential and/or improve customer satisfaction than a new employee.

    For more information on Audio Processors click here.

  • Bluetooth Headsets at a Glance

    Because of its ease of use and compatibility with a number of systems, Bluetooth technology is quickly becoming one of the more common forms of wireless peripheral that is used by consumers today. By choosing to use Bluetooth headsets, it is possible to have a fully-functional headset that will easily transfer from cell phones, computers, and a variety of other systems to any other system that has Bluetooth capabilities. The information below should be of some use to you in deciding whether Bluetooth headsets are right for your personal and business headset needs, while also helping you to choose the headset that will serve you best if you decide that Bluetooth is the way to go.

    How Bluetooth Works

    Bluetooth is the next generation of wireless peripherals, and is designed to allow users to transfer their peripherals from one Bluetooth-compatible device to another without the need for additional drivers or any other software installation. This cross-device functionality creates somewhat of a universal standard for wireless peripherals, allowing those who use Bluetooth to own a single set of peripheral devices which they can then transfer to whichever Bluetooth-enabled hardware they happen to be using at the time. Since Bluetooth is a wireless product as well, this can enable Bluetooth users to remain mobile while using their peripherals… combine this with the hardware-swapping capabilities of Bluetooth, and you have a peripheral that can be used on the move and which will adapt to different pieces of hardware as you use each one.

    Advantages of Bluetooth Headsets

    There are a number of advantages to choosing a Bluetooth headset to meet your needs. In addition to the fact that Bluetooth devices are wireless, you will only need to purchase a single headset in order to use it with your Bluetooth-enabled telephone, cell phone, laptop computer, or any other hardware device which you own that features a Bluetooth connection. This can allow for a more dynamic home or office, letting you cycle through different pieces of hardware depending upon which room you are in or what you are doing at the time. These devices are also on the cutting edge of technology, so even as the technology begins to age you are likely to be able to get several years of use out of the headset that you choose before the current technology begins to be replaced.

    Bluetooth Headset Compatibility

    Of course, if you are considering buying a Bluetooth headset it’s important that you make sure that your hardware is compatible with Bluetooth technology. Cell phones and other telephone equipment should have it labeled on the package whether they are Bluetooth-ready, and many other portable devices and computers will bear a sticker or symbol on the device or computer itself. If you find that some of your equipment isn’t Bluetooth compatible, you might want to see if there are Bluetooth adaptors available which will allow you to use a Bluetooth headset with a device that would be otherwise unable to utilize it.

    Choosing the Right Headset for Your Needs

    Of course, not all Bluetooth headsets are created equal. In order to make sure that you buy the headset that best meets your needs, take into account what you plan on using the headset for, whether you will be using it with a single device or multiple devices, and exactly how much mobility and overall hearing you hope to have with your Bluetooth headset in place. For work that will be done inside or if you only plan on using the headset in conjunction with a landline phone or computer, you might want to consider single or dual-earpiece headsets which can be worn comfortably for longer periods of time. If you are going to be mobile or using your headset with a cell phone, however, you might want to consider a single-earpiece or even an earbud headset as they will allow you a bit more freedom and will leave one of your ears uncovered so that you can better hear everything that is around you.

  • Deciding Among VOIP Phone Headset Options

    Voice Over Internet Protocol telephone service, better known as VOIP, is rapidly growing as an alternative to traditional land-line telephone service. Depending upon the VOIP service that is used, individuals can place telephone calls via their computer, through a mobile device similar to a cell phone in any location with wireless internet access, or even through a standard telephone that is hooked into a broadband internet connection. To make using VOIP telephone services even easier, you might consider using a phone headset that will allow you to make and receive calls in a hands-free manner once the call has connected.

    Differences Between VOIP and Landline Phones

    Though the calls that they make seem remarkably similar, there are actually several differences between a VOIP phone and a standard local landline telephone. The main difference between the two types of phone service, however, is the fact that they use different types of connections in order to allow phone calls to be placed and received. Traditional phones use a process known as “circuit switching”, which means that during the duration of the call a connection is maintained between the callers and the conversation is carried back-and-forth as an electrical charge along a circuit. While very stable, this process is also very inefficient because it requires an electrical charge or digital transmission to travel along the same stretch of cable countless times during the conversation. VOIP, on the other hand, uses a process which is known as “packet switching”; this process does not maintain a constant connection, but instead opens a brief connection and sends a small data “packet” containing a part of the conversation to the recipient on the other end. While the opening and closing of the connection occurs too quickly to be noticed, the savings in energy during even brief calls can be significant.

    Using a Headset with VOIP

    Though the connection used with VOIP service is significantly different from that used with a landline telephone, many VOIP systems are compatible with the majority of telephones and telephone peripherals that are on the market today. Modern headsets, especially those which utilize digital audio and microphones, are usually compatible with most VOIP systems. Through the use of VOIP codecs, the audio from your headset can be converted into a digital signal if it is not in a digital form already; this digital signal can then be broken into packets and sent along the VOIP connection in the same manner that your call would be if you were using your standard telephone instead of the headset. Should you have any question as to whether a particular headset is VOIP-compatible, then take the time to research VOIP-specific headsets in order to make sure that the headset you choose can be used with your VOIP service.

    Choosing the Headset that Suits Your Needs

    Of course, there are a number of different options which are available to you when looking for a VOIP compatible headset. In order to make sure that you ultimately choose the headset that will best fill your specific needs, take the time to consider exactly how and where you plan on using the headset that you purchase. Consider whether you would best be served with a wireless headset, one that is attached to a portable receiver, or perhaps even a headset that can be used with a variety of different devices in addition to your VOIP line. Don’t forget to take into consideration personal preferences on whether you want full earpieces or earbuds, and the length and style of boom mike that you would like with the headset that you choose. By taking the time to weigh your options, you will end up choosing the VOIP headset that will allow you both freedom and comfort.

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